It is a frequent complaint among judges of A&S competitions that some of the documentation is too long, and that they do not have time to read it all when judging. My question to them is, “Why do you feel the need to read all of the documentation?” Documentation is only one part of the overall judging, and one should be able to determine whether it is complete and useful with a brief scan of the contents. Documentation should not be directed to the judges, nor should it be evaluated as if it was the artifact being judged (unless it is in a “research paper” category). Rather, documentation should be directed to the viewer of the A&S entry, who is interested in the artifact and is of at least average intelligence, but does not know much about the subject. It should give that viewer a brief, but fairly complete idea of how the object was made, why it was made, of what it was made, and how that object functioned in the place and time it represents and lead that viewer through a source list or bibliography to more detailed information. I, for one, do not believe that that can adequately be done in the two pages often suggested by judges who do read every word. I also know of people who have source lists alone that are longer than two pages.
Judges should be able to tell if the documentation appears to be complete and whether the documentation is easily usable in a few moments by considering these criteria:
Completeness of Documentation Text
Does the documentation include information, in written text, photocopies, and/or explanatory drawings, on:
Statement of Purpose/Summary of Project
Is there a statement of purpose, a summary of the project and/or a conclusion? Does the person tell you what s/he is trying to accomplish or what they learned from this project. This section is optional, but can be very informative in helping the person reading the documentation understand the personal goals of the maker and perhaps why certain steps were taken and others were not; or why a particular effect was achieved rather than other possibilities.
Bibliography or Source List
Utility of the Documentation
Generally, if the documentation has a bibliography with a variety of sources, is footnoted appropriately, contains information on all the areas described under “Completeness of Documentation Text,” and is arranged in a useful manner, it is good documentation and should be given the appropriate number of points where that is applicable. To the degree that it is missing the items above, has known unreliable sources, or is arranged haphazardously, then the points awarded for documentation should be decreased and the reasons for doing so noted in the commentary. These criteria can also be used in an exhibition, where comments on the documentation are often sought. The commentor can note in which of these areas the person is especially strong or needs improvement.
Judges need not be terrified of facing a long package of documentation. Look for general completeness, existence of source lists, and information organized in a clear and useful manner, and you will be able to get on with the other aspects of the artifact quickly.
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